COVID cases on the rise — what that means for the Plumas tier

By Debra Moore

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Plumas County has seen its confirmed case rate climb steadily over the past couple of weeks after months of stability, and it isn’t the only area. Cases across the nation have set near daily records over the past several days, hitting an all-time high surpassing 90,000 cases in one day yesterday. And it’s hitting rural America hard.

Public Health Director Andrew Woodruff said Plumas County made the front page of the New York Times as it and other areas in Northern California were depicted in bright red for their increased caseloads. And what’s alarming to Woodruff is that these new Plumas cases aren’t all part of one cluster, they are several individual cases that could lead to more.

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It’s virtually certain that Plumas County will be reassigned from its current yellow tier status to the orange tier next Tuesday when the state makes it weekly announcement. That’s a step backward for the county and if the current case rate is maintained, Plumas County could be moved to the red tier soon.

“We’ve received a third of our total case count in the past two and a half weeks,” Woodruff said the morning of Oct. 30.

The state bases its decisions on a county’s case count and positivity rates, with some consideration for rural counties and their reduced numbers.

California uses a four-tier system going from the least restrictive yellow tier, to orange, to red, and finally to the most restrictive, purple. Once a county is assigned a tier it must remain there for three weeks before it can move to a less restrictive tier. However, it can be moved to a more restrictive tier, and that’s what has Woodruff worried. Last week, Plumas posted 14 new confirmed cases and there have been 17 new cases this week.

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Woodruff said individuals, businesses and organizations should be cognizant of the volatility of the tiers when planning events. The state’s tier table is attached below, but here is a sampling of what would be most impacted locally.

Restaurants: In the yellow, orange and red tiers, all can be open to indoor dining, but the capacity differs. In both yellow and orange, there is a max capacity of 50 percent, but it drops to 25 percent in red.

Bars and breweries: In the yellow tier they can be open indoors at 50 percent capacity. But in orange, it’s outdoors only. They are closed completely in the red tier.

Places of worship: In the yellow and orange tiers they can be open indoors at 50 percent capacity. That drops to 25 percent for the red tier.

Hair salons and barbershops: Are open in all tiers for indoor services.

Retail: All can be open indoors, but capacity is 50 percent in the red tier and 25 percent in the purple tier.

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Offices: Nonessential offices can be open indoors in the yellow and orange tiers, with 50 percent and 25 percent capacity respectively. In the red tier, it’s remote work only.

Gyms and fitness centers: In the yellow tier, open at 50 percent capacity. In the orange tier, open at 25 percent capacity, and in the red tier, open at 10 percent capacity.